For those who were not there to see it, the game can best be summarized through the first few plays of the game. Stanford fumbles opening kickoff. Colorado gets the ball at the Stanford 36. Colorado converts a first down(in three plays) to the Stanford 25. Rush for no gain, rush for no gain, pass incomplete. Colorado lines up to take a field goal. Defensive lineman Max Bergen blocks the field goal and returns it 75 yards for a touchdown. In the end, Stanford still managed to get a touchdown on the first drive of the game, they just didn’t happen to possess the ball for most of it.
In a game like this one, teams can sometimes play down to their opponent and make uncharacteristic mistakes. But the Cardinal managed to keep Colorado from getting a head start. From there, the game played out as expected.
- Defense Stands Tall – Stanford’s run defense has remained spectacular. After the first half, Colorado had a grand total of -1 rushing yards. When the Cardinal lost Skov, there was great reason for concern about how the defense would respond. Clearly, the defense has decided that it must play better as a whole to compensate. The defense has looked largely the same, which is a compliment to both coach Shaw and the linebacker corps as a whole. The team has given up 7 touchdowns in 5 games. Only one team has scored multiple touchdowns on this defense this season.
2.Offensive Diversity – Coach Shaw chose to attack the depleted Colorado secondary. Rather than setting up the run first, Luck threw the ball on the majority of plays in the first half. Fullback Ryan Hewitt had an increased role in the passing game to help neutralize the rush. He caught some key passes in the flat, including two which went for touchdowns. Luck also showed some fancy footwork in the pocket on a few plays, stepping up to avoid the rush and then resetting his feet for on target throws down the field. Shaw also continued to use wildcat packages this week, lining up running back Tyler Gaffney under center. Though we did not see any highlight reel catches from Andrew Luck this week, Gaffney did pick some big yards running.
**Mistakes on Special Teams **– Fumbling the opening kickoff is not usually a good way to start a game. The Cardinal also missed a field goal and an extra point. They also nearly had another fumble on a punt return. Special teams should never really stand out. Though these were not issues in this particular game, Stanford should still work to fix some of these mistakes for when they are in a tough game where every play matters.
Looking out for the Future – Backup Quarterback Brett Nottingham also had a chance to show his throwing strength in the fourth quarter. Not to make too much out of garbage time, but the guy definitely has the physical skills to start at the college level.
There were no dramatic story lines in this game, at least not if Stanford wins convincingly like they are supposed to. Chalk up another win for the Cardinal as they improve to 5-0(3-0). They play at Washington State next week against the upstart Cougars.